Friday, September 26, 2014

Pigeon Holes

This checking area at the EMP is a telling indicator of the profound cultural change generated by digital information management. Computers permit the manipulation of countless variables. Obviously, a wide range of variables is catered to in this reception area of Frank Gehry’s building. This is the first example I have seen of a checking area where all the storage units are not identical.

Several on-line design sites sluice the latest thinking to my Email address. Designboom, CoolHunter, and Fast Company have neat stuff. The MacArthur Foundation’s housing newsletter is heartening. 

More after the jump.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Current Thinking

"...we have another possibility-to be smart and to be elastic."

Jizo photo courtesy Flickr
Quote courtesy designboom
More after the jump.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Wet Shoes Can Kill You

Photo courtesy Flickr

One of the great consumer luxuries of the last forty years has been being able to assume that shoes are waterproof. Now and then a new pair disappoints. It’s important to consider whether it’s worth the bother to keep them in inventory.

To its eternal credit, a couple of years ago The Great Big Hiking Co-op accepted without a hiccup the return of a soggy pair of walking shoes. Of all stores, they’re the one that understands that cold feet are more than a psychological problem. The maritime climate of Western Washington is just as dangerous as the Arctic. Damp chill paralyses judgement, volition, and ultimately all vital functions. 

To save space and simplify decision-making, I shop for things that can function in a wide range of environments, from cutting-edge urban architecture to the trail. As a voluntary pedestrian, it’s important to have footgear that can get me safely home in a storm. Early last summer I picked up a pair of leather slippers from a well-respected manufacturer. A few weeks later, wearing them in warm rain chilled me nearly to the bone. It took four days for the leather to dry. I pulled out the insoles and threw them into the garbage, because I didn’t want anyone to take the risk of owning them.

The slippers came from a small, local, independent shoe store, so I decided not to ask for a return. Having the store on my shopping trail is worth more than the price of the shoes. Interestingly, the Deep South America brand of urban/wilderness fusion clothing sells a pair of featherweight, fast-drying slippers in a suede/mesh hybrid that’s just the ticket. They're a good end of day alternative to hiking boots in the woods, while the boots carry me here and there in town, with the slippers as civilized back-up indoors.

More after the jump.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014


Photo courtesy Flickr

The annual procurement run for pantry staples happened recently. Once a year when I have a car I don hiking boots and mush through the aisles of The Great Big Northern European Home Furnishings Chain and The Great Big Discount Warehouse Store. The Swedes sell first-rate traditional gingersnaps and the small discs of hard tack that are the backbone of my emergency food store.

It was surprising to realize that a crisp round of just about anything is cookie enough for my purposes. The shape seems to be the treat. The rounds are convenient, easy to serve, and hard to find in an ordinary grocery. It’s a relief not to have to wrestle with storing and later breaking shards and an explosion of crumbs off a plank or wheel of a large unit of dry rye.

More after the jump.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Tub Wars

Old school black water generator courtesy Flickr

Deft’s archive documents a long journey in search of the perfect laundry system. Last month I lost patience with wearing clothing scented with other peoples’ dryer sheets. I sent away for a one pound capacity automatic German portable washing machine. I had given up automatic washing because the portable machine I’d been using was clumsy, wasteful, and too quick to fail.

The new machine has transformed several housekeeping systems, starting with the obvious one of getting clothes clean. Its small capacity is ideal for the two of us. Turn around time is now hours rather than the eight day minimum a laundromat run used to demand. A short turn around time means that inventory can be smaller, saving capital and precious storage space. Washing frequent loads (in unscented products) keeps the house smelling sweet. 

I rediscovered the convenience and efficiency of using many small wipers while cooking and cleaning. I use washcloths from The Great Big Northern European Home Furnishings Chain. The things have hanging loops sewn into them, and I just post them here and there on hooks around the kitchen like little clusters of white bats. Working with palm-sized wipers is fast. I can keep the kitchen (and bath) clean rather than getting them clean.

I had been experimenting with cheap disposable wipers from the Buck Store but grew discouraged with the scents of the cleaning solutions with which they are saturated. It will be time to sally forth in search of a neutral pH no-rinse cleaning solution at a janitorial supply. That in hand, I’ll be right back where I started in 1981, when a friend handed me a copy of Don Aslett’s Is There Life After Housework?

The new machine is designed to be quiet, so it is easy to integrate with other activities in the same room. It’s small enough to handle by myself and came home from the shipping concierge on a hand truck. I could have tilted it into the back of a cab.

A German laundry centrifuge, aka bathing suit spinner, remains from a previous experiment with hand laundry. The spinner gets two cups of water out of a finished load from the new machine. Things air dry in hours. I set the spinner on magical nylon sliding castors so I could tuck it into a corner and was pleasantly surprised to find that when it’s running, the spinner stays in place.

The new system is greener than any of the previous ones. When I was surfing for a new machine, I ran across a similar small automatic designed to wash baby clothes. It has a cycle that boosts the temperature of the wash water. In retrospect, that machine may be the better value. I’ll wait and see. Costing out a machine in terms of the number of laundromat runs it equals makes it easy to rationalize a purchase.

NB: The photo illustrates an effective old technique. Sailors used to, and for all I know still may, clean clothing by tying it to a rope and towing it behind the vessel for several hours. The practice produced  immaculate white canvas uniforms.

More after the jump.